Look, you guys know by now what my deal is with death metal. I love that shit. Cannot get enough, ever. In many ways, it’s the perfect genre of metal: unusually tight stylistic constraints in terms of instrumentation, vocal style, production, and theme come together to form a musical, tonal, aesthetic language that prizes nuance, subtle variation, and a willingness to engage openly with the sound and aesthetics of the artists and albums of yore. Where some people hear unoriginal, uninspired, or lazy music, I, the wizened sage of Ough, hear bands that are proudly carving their own niche into one of metal’s most steadily-growing monuments.
Cerebral Rot are the latest band this year to have me pondering and openly lamenting the fact that most people either don’t see it the way I do or don’t seem to care. Sure, the rising surge of death metal bands that are taking up the genre’s classic mantle is steadily growing into a filthy tidal wave courtesy of plenty of benefactors and gospel-spreaders similar to myself, but I still can’t help but be confused that other people simply haven’t let death metal into their hearts yet.
Odious Descent into Decay may not change any minds or reach into the stony hearts of classic death metal’s ardent detractors, but by God, it should. Those people have no idea what the hell they’re missing. The record has the same sort of sonic legibility on its face as other 2019 albums like those of Fetid, Ossuarium, or Krypts. And, just as with its compatriots, Cerebral Rot betray to those with a keener, more learned ear the exact same deep and heartfelt knowledge of the forgotten, obscure, underground treasures that the internet has given all those with the curiosity to match their ability to stomach subpar production. Cerebral Rot are a fireworks display recognizing and honoring all those who bemoan the way metal journalists don’t give any of the deserved credit to their early-90s Finnish death metal demos of choice.
Sonically, Cerebral Rot lives in a quasi-duplicitous simplicity: nothing on Odious Descent could be considered anywhere close to technical death metal – there is no singular flash or flair to be found here – but the quartet, who have collectively spent a considerable amount of man-hours in other projects like Crurifragium, Caustic Wound, and the aforementioned Fetid, clearly know their way around a song and have crafted a debut that manages to stay compelling across a long-for-the-genre 46-minute running time. The album’s bread and butter is in the corpuscular slabs of riffs that are probably best described as “true caveman shit.” These tend to evolve in one of two ways: either they bubble and liquefy into slow, roiling death-doom, or pick up enough momentum to become putrid blasts of proto-deathgrind. You’re guaranteed to come across all three on every track, and the stunning acuity with which Cerebral Rot know to switch between these modes means that the album never lets up, even when the riffs start to smudge into each other on the last couple tracks.
Odious Descent is just as strong and clear a vision in terms of the production and general aesthetic as it is in the actual music. The truly grotesque cover art, an oozing mass of tepid carrion, is so repugnant you can practically smell it (which, I believe, officially makes it “the Demilich vocals of cover art”). The production vividly captures this mood as well: the guitars are tuned low and kept muddy, the bass is a churning pit, and the drums are raw and intentionally flat to a degree, kept lifeless and vaguely flaccid. The vocals, gurgling with reverb, are the foul wind above it all, carrying the fungal, gaseous stench as far as possible with aplomb.
Odious Descent into Decay is the real deal. It is a truly pungent slab of death metal that reaches into the genre’s swampy depths and emerges with enough gore, roadkill, and decaying detritus to fill a mortuary twice over. Sure, for those who want to plug their ears against the siren call of classic death metal done at its best, Cerebral Rot sure as hell isn’t going to change their mind. But as for me? Well, I’m listening to death metal. And nothing is going to change that.
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Odious Descent into Decay comes out tomorrow, August 16th, courtesy of 20 Buck Spin. You can preorder it at their website.